On May 27, 2021, the University of Tennessee in Knoxville said it would continue a pilot program that would allow prospective students to choose whether to submit standardized test scores — an option common in higher education in the Covid era.

In a statement at the time, university officials said they planned to continue the pilot, which began in July 2020, “for a maximum of five years.” They said they would collect data and assess it after each school year and the program could be “improved or suspended”.

Less than a year later, Tennessee’s optional testing pilot has ended — even though data from the university suggests it is benefiting the institution.

The University of Tennessee System announced Friday that applicants to system institutions will again be required to submit SAT or ACT scores, starting with incoming freshmen for fall 2023.

Why was the pilot program terminated? When asked on Monday, a university spokesman did not respond.

Tennessee System President Randy Boyd said in a statement that college officials have engaged “very thoroughly” with the system’s board of directors about the test-optional policy, which Boyd described as “our approach to admissions.” an exception to the practice” for the past two years. “

“Based on our review and thoughtful conversations at our recent board meeting, campuses do not intend to recommend any changes to the university’s admissions policies,” Boyd said.

The Tennessee system’s four undergraduate campuses briefed the board in February on the progress of the optional testing pilot. Three of the four districts reported that, according to their analysis, students’ high school grade point average was a better predictor of retention and graduation than their ACT scores.

We have verifiable evidence that test scores do not provide real value as predictors of student success.

At the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, campus officials said they saw record numbers of applicants, including an increase in students of color, after making ACT scores optional.

Across the system, officials reported that most applicants for admissions in 2021 and 2022 still submitted test scores, and even though those scores weren’t required, there were some differences across campuses.

A Republican state lawmaker introduced a bill this year that would require all applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores to the state’s four-year public colleges. The proposal is still in committee.

The Tennessee system’s decision to reinstate its testing requirements is not unprecedented. Florida’s public colleges and universities continued to require standardized test scores throughout the pandemic. The University System of Georgia suspended its requirement from 2020 through 2021, then reinstated it for the spring 2022 semester. In the fall of 2022, some colleges in the Georgia system will elect to test again under certain conditions.

But many colleges across the country continue to let prospective students choose whether to submit SAT or ACT scores with their applications. According to FairTest, an advocacy group for fair testing, more than 1,800 four-year public colleges are not required to take standardized tests for the 2022-23 school year. (In the Tennessee system, students admitted for the 2022-23 school year are not required to submit test scores.)

“The unfortunate consequence of this sudden shift is that the institution’s admissions office, faculty and administrators, and prospective students will not be able to benefit from expanded analysis of optional test admissions and outcomes, such as improved access and student achievement in college. Success,” David Hawkins, chief education and policy officer at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, wrote in an email. chronicle.

“Institutions should seriously consider any changes of this magnitude that the research tells them, because testing requirements impose significant costs and barriers on students from low-income backgrounds and the high schools that serve them,” Hawkins said.

Some studies suggest that test-optional admissions has benefits for colleges — including increasing the number of applicants, especially from marginalized backgrounds.

“We have verifiable evidence that test scores are not a predictor of student success,” Andrew B. Palumbo, vice president of enrollment management at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, wrote in an email. .” The WPI has been an optional test since 2007, as officials found no statistically significant differences in student success (retention and graduation rates) between score submitters and non-score submitters. The institution is currently test-blind, meaning that standardized test scores are not considered at all in admissions decisions as part of an eight-year pilot program.

In a statement, an ACT spokeswoman praised the University of Tennessee system’s decision, citing a study that showed standardized test scores combined with high school GPAs were a better predictor of college success, as “higher education” Objective measures of readiness”. A spokesman for the College Board, which administers the SAT, did not respond to a request for comment.